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The maiden Qantas QF9 from Perth to London arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal Three just after 5am on Sunday, with more than 200 passengers experiencing the first direct connection between Australia and the United Kingdom.
In special Indigenous-themed livery, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner conquers the trailblazing 14,498km journey in about 17 hours, making it the third longest aeroplane route in the world, and cutting out those pesky time-wasting stopovers.
Qantas has connected Australia with the UK for more than seven decades via the ‘Kangaroo Route’, a tag that not only refers to the airline’s signature livery but also the string of stops the aircraft had to hop between on the long journey.
“When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops. Now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop,” boasted Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
“This is a game-changing route flown by a game-changing aircraft. Australians have never had a direct link to Europe before, so the opportunities this opens up are huge.”
The business suites at the pointy end of the plane have all the glitzy lie-flat beds and mouth-watering menus you’d expect from one of the world’s premier airlines, but even the cheap seats in economy are more comfortable than your usual long-haul flight.
Improved air quality, lower cabin noise and increased cabin pressure are all designed to combat jet lag, while little touches like charging ports and extra storage space add to the comfort of the 17-hour sojourn.
Non-stop flights between Perth and London will provide a much-needed boost to Western Australia’s travel industry. British visitors have typically arrived in Sydney or Melbourne — Australia’s two biggest cities — and often fail to make the five-hour journey across the Nullarbor to the West Coast. But now, Perth will provide a gateway to many Brits arriving Down Under, encouraging them to spend some time in WA before heading east. Qantas is even offering travellers from Heathrow to Melbourne a free stopover in Perth now.
Next item on Qantas’ agenda? Non-stop flights between Australia’s major East Coast cities and key overseas destinations London and New York. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has challenged both Airbus and Boeing to come up with a plane that can link Sydney and Melbourne direct to Heathrow and New York. “And we’re getting close,” he said, before hopping on the historic flight from Perth to London this week.
Australia’s national carrier will know whether they have an aircraft capable of these journeys by the end of the year, with planes hoped to be ready by 2022.